Speech by Perm Rep Kishore Mahbubani in New York, 1 Oct 2001 - Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism

Mr President,

We speak today with heavy hearts. On 11 September 2001, the United Nations was scheduled to have its regular opening of the 56th General Assembly Session. 11 September also marked the 20th anniversary of the UN's International Day of Peace. Instead of celebrating peace, we witnessed the horrific events in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, which shattered the world we had grown accustomed to.

2 We in Singapore share the grief and pain of the American people. Our heartfelt sympathies also go out to the families of the victims of these senseless acts. In one day, terror invaded not only the United States, but also 80 other countries whose citizens lost their lives. As US Secretary of State Powell said, "the World Trade Centre, was just that - the World Trade Centre. And so it was an attack against Americans, it was an attack against Muslims, it was an attack against Jews, it was an attack against Africa and Asia and Europe, all parts of the world".

3 In the words of my Prime Minister, " The tragedy is a defining moment for the US and for the world. Suddenly, we all felt vulnerable to terrorism. Humanity and the civilised world have been attacked. The world as we knew it on 11 September 2001 has changed forever. "

Mr President,

4 Singapore condemns in the strongest terms these attacks and all other forms of terrorism. The perpetrators of these terrible crimes cannot go unpunished. They must be brought to justice. Others must be deterred from contemplating similar horrific acts.

5 The US and the international community will have to respond. Americans are not alone in this fight against terrorism. Singapore stands with the United States and the international community in this struggle. This is a fight between people who stand for civilised society, and those out to destroy it. This is not a fight against Islam. Muslims from all around the world, including Singapore Muslims, have expressed revulsion against the crimes committed in the name of their faith and pledged their solidarity with this struggle. President Bush has also made it clear that this is a war against terrorism, not a fight against Islam.

Mr President,

6 We realise that it will be a long and uphill struggle to make the world safer from terrorism. This is a deep-rooted problem that will not go away easily. The terrorists have build up a sophisticated and complex global network and other societies too are at risk. Countering terrorism must therefore be a global endeavour. Globally, we need to put together our collective will and wisdom to address the problem in all its dimensions. There will inevitably be sensitivities, domestic and regional, that will have to be managed. But we must accept these risks to create a better world.

7 To 'surgically remove' terrorist 'cells', oftentimes a decisive, forceful response is necessary. This is an immediate response we need to take. But the task does not end there. To succeed in our ultimate goal, the driving forces of international terrorism must be rooted out and their networks comprehensively destroyed. In our mission to defeat international terrorism, a vigorous, sustained and comprehensive global strategy is needed. We will need to deepen and strengthen our international regimes on such matters as the legal frameworks for combating terrorism, exchange of information, ending financing of terrorism as well as more effective law enforcement actions.

8 Despite the fact that terrorism is not a new phenomenon - many of us all round the globe have had unhappy experiences with it - coherence in international cooperation has been sadly lacking. Terrorism has been on the agenda at international gatherings for several years. The G8 has had annual discussions on this. Several major treaties have been negotiated under UN auspices. But to-date, the prevailing attitude has been that the problem could and should be managed primarily by domestic and regional measures. The commitment to multilateralism and collaborative international action was simply not a priority.

9 This must change and change quickly. We welcome the swift action of the Security Council and General Assembly in passing the resolutions S/RES/1368 and A/RES/56/1 respectively on 12 September. We also welcome the follow-up efforts in resolution S/RES/1373 which was adopted unanimously by the UNSC last Friday. The resolution puts in place the overall framework for vigorous international action against terrorism. It is an unprecedented action by the Security Council and its swift passing is telling testimony to the renewed commitment to win this war. These positive steps must be sustained and built-upon. As our Secretary-General has reminded us, the UN can give "global legitimacy to the long-term struggle against terrorism". The time has never been more urgent for all organs of the UN to examine their respective responsibilities and tools at their disposal so as to undertake this collaborative mission in the most effective manner.

Mr President,

10 The problem of international terrorism is not going to disappear soon. In the short term, it is more likely to get worse. No one is immune. Security, once measured by the might of a nation's army, is now a matter of protecting individuals against the risks of living in an open global community. Terrorists do not discriminate among their victims. Singapore has had its own experiences with terrorist attacks. We suffered a terrorist attack by the Japanese Red Army on a ferry, the Laju, in 1974. In 1991 we had to deal with a hijack by Pakistani militants of a Singapore Airlines aircraft. We have seen victims of terrorism all over the world. We have witnessed the indelible images of Japanese commuters struggling for air after the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attacks on 20 March 1995, the dramatic hostage drama in Peru that clouded Christmas in 1996, and the destruction of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, which as former US President Clinton pointed out to this General Assembly that year, resulted in more Kenyan and Tanzanian casualties than American casualties. He said, "For every American killed there, roughly 20 Africans were murdered and 500 more injured."

Mr President,

11 The Chinese term for "crisis" is appropriately designated by two Chinese characters meaning "danger" and "opportunity". The dangers are clear. The opportunity before us today is to channel the global outrage following the events of 11 September into a strong global commitment and action to eradicate the scourge of terrorism. Divisions among us will hand victory to the terrorists. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools".

1 Oct 2001
UNGA, New York

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